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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Savannah Line sees rapid expansion in its fleet of ships
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of columns about early shipping in Georgia and Bulloch County.

The Savannah Line sold the Dessoug and converted the City of Macon and City of Birmingham ships to cargo-only. It next purchased the Plant Line's La Grande Duchesse and renamed her the second City of Savannah.

It then ordered six new vessels: the first City of Atlanta and City of Memphis, the second City of Columbus and City of Macon, the third City of Savannah and the second tug, the General G.M. Sorrel.

"Railroad Baron" Edward Henry Harriman, who owned the Union Pacific, Central Pacific, Southern Pacific and Illinois Central railroads, purchased the Central Railroad and Ocean Steamship Company in 1907.

Shortly thereafter, two more ships were ordered from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company: the City of Saint Louis and City of Montgomery.

They could accommodate 130 first-class, 36 second-class and 57 steerage passengers. For first-class passengers, there were 38 staterooms and two special bedrooms in a steel deckhouse on the Hurricane Deck. There were another 28 staterooms and four special bedrooms in two wooden deckhouses on the Promenade Deck. Second-class passengers were housed in 12 staterooms, each with three berths, located on the Aft Main Deck. Steerage passengers slept in the Forward Main Deck, where there was a large sleeping compartment with berths for 18 women and another compartment with berths for 36 men.

With the start of World War I, the Savannah Line chartered out her four largest vessels - the City of Columbus, City of Macon, City of Memphis and City of Savannah - to carry cargo all around the world.

By 1916, the Savannah Line had made enough money to order two more vessels, this time from Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington, Delaware. They were the 6,700-ton, 435-foot-long passenger and cargo ships the City of Boston and City of Chattanooga.

When then United States entered WWI, the government brought all railroads under its control, including the Illinois Central and its Central of Georgia and the Savannah Line.

With the need for more capacity for both cargo and passengers, the Savannah Line purchased the ships the Somerset and the Suwannee from the Merchants and Miners Transportation Company, which it renamed the City of Athens and City of Rome.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at



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